The Artist – A Review – The Pride of Man

The Academy Award winner last year is a good film. Now before the review can go any further, the question inevitably arises with Best picture winners, was it the best and the simple answer is no. There were a slew of great films up for nomination last year. The Descendants should have been the winner (this is the opinion of the reviewer). The Artist is an experiment from the past; what were movies like without sound? The Artist gives us the beauty of picture, a wonderful score and great performances to pull off the experiment. Yet in the end it is a gimmick and something that has been tried before, albeit well done here. So as a film it is good but not worthy of the accolade, Best Picture.

The most thing interesting about the film was the character path of George Valentin. He starts off the film on top of the world. He is the silent film era’s leading actor. He is superstar. He has everything a person could want, fame, money, big house, adorable dog, a wife, even a loyal chauffeur. He has the pride of a man at the top as well. He neglects his wife, flirts with another woman and does not see the changes looming on the horizon that will bring his world to an end. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall, so the Proverb says and this is what plays out in the rest of the movie.

Sound enters the world of film and George cannot see the use of it. He even says so to the studio manger but when he arrives on the lot the next day he finds that silent films are dead and he is out of a job. The studio wants fresh stars to leap into the world of the “talkies” and George is just too old. As it turns out, the girl that George had helped earlier in the movie (Peppy Miller) becomes the next big thing. So George decides that he does not need the studio or sound to make a good film, he will write, direct and finance his own silent film. He pours his resources into the movie as well as all that he has emotionally and physically. When it comes time to picking the premiere date he decides on the 25th of October. Little does he know that this is the same date that the studio has chosen for the new film staring Peppy Miller.

George’s film bombs and Peppy’s is a hit and he slides into depression. His pride does not allow him to look to anyone else for help and it also destroys his already fledgling marriage. His wife has had enough of being taken for granted and not being paid any attention and kicks him out of the house. George turns to alcohol to try to fill the void that is in his soul. All that he has left are his dog and his trusty chauffeur. A year goes by and George fires his chauffeur, realizing that he has not paid him in the last year, but also because his pride will not allow him to be taken care of by anyone else. George eventually has an auction to sell all his remaining possessions. Little does he know that there is someone in the background watching out for him.

A couple of years go by and pride leads him into a drunken rage. He begins to tear his films out of their canisters and unfurl them on the floor. Just as his life has unraveled, so do the strips of film, covering the living room of his apartment, a mocking reminder of all that he use to be. He lights the film with a match and watches it burn. His quickly realizes that his actions have left him no way out of the fire, so he clutches the last remaining film (The first film that he and Peppy did together) and faints from smoke inhalation. He is saved by the dog alerting a policeman who subsequently carries him out of the flaming room.

In the hospital, still unconscious, George is visited by Peppy. Peppy has him moved to her house. George needs rest, but will make a full recovery. When George wakes up, Peppy is there and they embrace. She returns to the studio later that day and makes a pitch to the studio manager for a film staring her and George. Through some arm twisting the manager agrees. His trusty chauffeur, who now works for Peppy, delivers the script to George, who dismisses the script. The chauffeur warns George to not let his pride destroy this chance. George begins to roam the halls of the mansion and comes upon a room with all of his things that were previously auctioned off. This is the final straw for George’s pride. He cannot bear to be helped by anyone, so he flees to his old burned out apartment. He finds his revolver and puts the gun in his mouth, ready to pull the trigger. His pride has lead him to destruction, he is ready to end it all. His selfishness cannot allow him to put is life in the hands of another and admit that he cannot be his own savior. It’s a poetic scene as Peppy, rams into a tree outside the apartment with a car and runs into the building, finding George with a gun in his hand. She explains that all she wanted to do was to take care of him and help him.

Pride can lead anyone to this point. We all desire to be captains of our own ships and masters of our own fate. We deny the existence of a God and look inwardly for the power to save ourselves from own mistakes. We place power, money, relationships, fame and anything else we can as the ultimate and we strive to be fulfilled. Yet all of them leave us wanting more and in despair because the fulfillment we are longing for never seems to happen. We search to satiate our thirst with everything but water.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”(John 7:37-38 ESV).

There is something that can quench our thirst and fill our deepest longings. But the answer only comes through laying aside our pride and selfishness and admitting that we need the intervention of someone else. We need someone to reach in and give us what we cannot do for ourselves and could never earn, no matter how much we try. Hopefully, like George, we will be able to give up and just enjoy the gift of grace that we are being offered.

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